Should I accept a risky (but fun) job or stay at my decent, stable job?
April 7, 2015 3:24 PM   Subscribe

I’m a 32 year old male and I currently have a very good government job working as a CFO in Finance. I have a great title, freedom, and excellent benefits (4 day work week, pension, plenty of vacation/sick). However, I'm not sure if I want to stay at this job or accept a riskier job that is more aligned with my passion/interests.

The work at my current job is voluminous but not impossible. We are a profitable agency and we don't have a lot of the financial stress that many other agencies have. I have been promised by my Director that I will eventually replace his position in about 8 years. Until then, I have guaranteed raises every year (government pay structure). I have been with the agency almost 1.5 years. I’m using the tuition reimbursement to complete my Master’s degree (2 classes left) and I will complete an additional valuable training program offered by the government over the next 5 months. The drawbacks to this job are that the people I work with don’t challenge me. I feel as though I’m babysitting both the staff and one of my bosses sometimes. I am also one of the lowest paid managers but I feel as though I work the hardest. These aren't deal breakers, but just a couple of issues.

Here is the dilemma. The actual industry that I am involved in does not interest me. I am passionate about producing quality work in my niche (finance) but I'm not passionate about the industry. When I tell people what I do for a living, they fall asleep mid-conversation.

Recently, I applied for and passed several interviews for a position with a dispensary that will soon be opening up in my town due to recent regulations that have passed. After speaking with the dispensary director, he wants to hire me as the Security Manager at a higher pay rate and a higher responsibility status than the position I originally applied for. The pay will be about $15,000 more than what I currently make. During the interviews, the hiring director knew that it was a miscast for me since most of my experience has been in finance, but he wanted to bring me aboard with the promise of something better down the road. I told him that my experience has not been in security (although I do have military experience) but that I'd be willing to do the job if there is an opportunity to move elsewhere within the company. The dispensary operation is expected to be a store, a cultivation center, and a processing center so there may be a lot more opportunities than just the dispensary store. The director is expecting to hire about 50-60 people overall eventually but he’s looking to fill his management team first.

I am not sure what to do. I am passionate about the MMJ industry. I am very interested in all aspects of the MMJ business. I also understand that it's an extremely risky industry at this point. Should I trust the dispensary director when he tells me that there will be opportunities for other positions? I am confident in my abilities to prove myself as a hard worker and as an asset. My issue is that I do not want to look back one year from now and regret my decision to leave the government job. I also don't want to regret passing up this dispensary opportunity--If it goes according to plan, I could establish myself as a key player and hopefully work my way into an even better position doing something I love. I don’t plan on getting married or having kids any time soon, if ever. I’m not in any type of debt, so the money is only one of the guiding forces.

I'm wondering if anyone else has had experience leaving a good job for something else that they have a passion for? Is there any other type of research that I can do to find out if this is the right move for me?
posted by TurboNerd to Work & Money (39 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I'm wondering if anyone else has had experience leaving a good job for something else that they have a passion for?

But this isn't something you have a passion for. You are passionate about MMJ. This is a job in security. If you want to jump ship, by all means do so, but don't do it until you have an offer in hand and do not do it because a guy says if you take this job you're totally unqualified for, there will be a different one for you later based on what he's "expecting."

Oy. No.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:37 PM on April 7, 2015 [22 favorites]

I feel like your criteria for taking this job are emotional rather than rational, due to your boredom with your current job. This business is unproven, they are attempting to hire you for a job that you aren't really qualified for, and the money is a nice carrot to dangle. What happens when this business has gone under in two years (or less)? What's your backup plan? How easy will it be for you to get another job in the MMJ field, or even in your previous field?

I'm all for follow your passions, but do your due diligence and apply with a company that's been around for a bit. You can reapply to this company after they've proven themselves a bit.
posted by vignettist at 3:42 PM on April 7, 2015 [11 favorites]

Oh goodness, I think it's worth considering the longer game here, decisions you make now could well affect your financial position and security for decades to come. Your are in a good place with your current job, and if I were you I would spend some time thinking of how you can make it more interesting /better for you - because that job has a lot going for it that a lot of other jobs don't currently. Once you have some ideas run them past your director and ask for their ideas and support. Kinda feel like you're looking to throw the baby out with the bath water here, best of luck.
posted by smoke at 3:50 PM on April 7, 2015 [3 favorites]

The pay will be about $15,000 more than what I currently make.
You're a finance guy so hopefully you've already considered this, but when you say "$15,000 more than what [you] currently make" are you talking just about wages or about total compensation? Because chances are the retirement and health benefits at your current job are better than what a young business will offer and it won't take much difference at all to eat up $15,000.
posted by Nerd of the North at 3:55 PM on April 7, 2015 [14 favorites]

Best answer: I just want to say that... a 4-day workweek, good title, sufficient pay, perceived "freedom," excellent vacation and sick leave benefits with a dialed-in raise schedule and government-guaranteed pension -- this is pretty much literally as good as you could possibly do job-wise in these United States in the year of Our Lord two thousand fifteen. I am sitting here practically crying at the prospect that you would not only be set up that way, but thinking of leaving it to go work in a very risky high stress job.

I get that it kind of sucks not being passionate about your work, but could you maybe find a hobby or volunteer opportunity you ARE passionate about, and use that as your source of life's meaning? If you are working 32 hour weeks and/or have 3 day weekends every single week -- I don't know how you manage your time -- you already have 20% more time that normal everyday human beings to dedicate to such things, which isn't everything but it's not nothing. It's a hell of a lot more than nothing.

I've never personally been in your situation but obviously it sounds like a terrible idea to me to let all that go.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 3:57 PM on April 7, 2015 [91 favorites]

I would wait to make the leap until you've finished your MA, unless the new job is willing to pay for the program you're currently in with no interruptions.

Personally I wouldn't touch a MMJ dispensary security position with a ten foot pole. Are you absolutely positive that you're up to speed on the very real risks and challenges of ensuring the security of a dispensary? Because I'm only a casual observer through things like NPR and the New York Times, and even I know that dispensaries get robbed all the time, handle a lot of cash (which is inherently insecure), have trouble being taken seriously by major institutions and authority figures, and all in all it's a wild and wooly line of work. So, to directly take on the challenges of securing a business like that, with literally zero security experience whatsoever? WHYYYYYYY???????? I mean to me it sounds like you're basically asking to get robbed at gunpoint, or for someone you are responsible for keeping safe to be robbed at gunpoint.

Also, this is at this point like third-hand experience for you, but I know someone who took an exciting yet risky position with a marijunana-adjacent company, and it turned out to be really bad news. And that was not a position wherein he was being tasked with the bodily security of people handling tens of thousands of dollars in cash every day.
posted by Sara C. at 3:57 PM on April 7, 2015 [4 favorites]

You're kind of in a sweet spot right now: You know your job, you are valued, you have nice benefits. The best part: you have 3 days a week to do what you like. That is a FANTASTIC perk.

MMJ and commercial MJ is an emerging industry, and if it's a good model, the mmj job will be there years into the future. (I live in Colorado. It's been fun to watch how things come together but frustrating to watch a friend's daughter who works in the industry get the short-end of a business that's still working out the kinks.) I'm suspicious that he's so willing to hire you for work you've never done. For that money, he might be able to get someone who's done security for this type of business before.

You work four days a week, right? Anything stopping you from working at a shop 1-2 days a week, or working with supportive political groups?
posted by mochapickle at 4:00 PM on April 7, 2015 [7 favorites]

Did new job say *anything* about indemnifying you against any problems with federal law enforcement? Because that's still a thing.
posted by rhizome at 4:02 PM on April 7, 2015 [9 favorites]

I feel compelled to point out that this is a textbook "no turning back" scenario.

If you take a job at a MMJ dispensary, you will not be able to go back to your government finance job. You will not be able to go back to any government job. The government does not look kindly upon people that engage in criminal activity (at the federal level).
posted by saeculorum at 4:19 PM on April 7, 2015 [17 favorites]

One other thing. I don't know anything about government structures, but in the private sector, a CFO typically reports to the CEO, being one level from the top of the company. This is more than a "manager" position, it's a senior executive role, typically held by people with many years of experience, and overseeing large finance organizations with several levels of people below them. It sounds like this is a little different for you, in that you report to a director and describe yourself as one of the managers. This isn't to minimize what you do at all, but to point out that I think you may be very fortunate to have achieved such a lofty title so (apparently) early in your career. And if you want to continue in finance long-term, it might take a long time to get back to the CFO level if you walk away from it now, especially for something totally unrelated. If I were in your shoes, I'd hold out for a lateral or near-lateral move into the private sector to cement yourself at the executive level.
posted by primethyme at 4:28 PM on April 7, 2015 [9 favorites]

I live in Silicon Valley so I've seen lots of people take on the risk of being in a start-up for the potential reward of new career, lots of money, an insider track to a high growth potential career. Aside from your personal appetite for risk, I would look at three things.
First the quality of the start-up as a business opportunity. This depends on two things - the quality of the business idea and the quality of the team. MJ may be a growth business overall, but what is the case that this particular dispensary will be one of the winners? Does it have a competitive advantage? Maybe it has already secured a license to operate that will be hard for late comers to get? (It does have a license, right?) Any other distinctive competencies or special angles that wouldn't be easy to duplicate? Second is the quality of the team - what do they know about cultivation, retail, government regulation etc? Based on the fact that they are willing to hire you, I would really look into whether this is a top rate team. Since the quality of the team is the probably the biggest predictor of success, i would look at this very carefully before betting your career on them.

Second, is that there is a very real likelihood (I would guess more likely that not) that this particular job will not work out - either the company fails, you don't like the environment/team or the job itself doesn't work out. What then? If you are feel confident that you can use this experience to grow professionally - if this doesn't work out in a year or two, you will land on your feet and be better positioned for the next thing - then it is a good risk (for someone who doesn't mind risk). But if it falls through and you are left wishing you never left your current job, you are probably better off not doing this.
posted by metahawk at 4:30 PM on April 7, 2015 [5 favorites]

You say you're passionate about finance, just not the particular field you work in, and you're clear that you don't actually want to work in security--it would be a stepping stone to a different role eventually. Maybe the MMJ industry is right for you at some point, but if MMJ is going to happen in your state, it's going to happen, and when it does, they will need finance guys. Why not wait for a job in your actual area of interest to open up? Because you're right, by working in the MMJ field, you will definitely be choosing a stance that will probably take you out of the running for other jobs. This is something people do all the time--I mean, working for Planned Parenthood means that it's going to be hard to get a job with a pro-life organization, and working for RJ Reynolds is going to make it hard to sign on with Greenpeace, but it's not something to do lightly.

I would definitely also try to look at the money in the big picture of health, retirement and education benefits, along with the 4-day work week. Unless the new place is offering some pretty gold-plated benefits, my guess is that the 15K difference will disappear pretty quickly.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 4:36 PM on April 7, 2015 [6 favorites]

Don't jump at this first offer just because it's in the industry you want to be involved in. Folks above have outlined why it's a sketchy business offer and likely setting you up for not having a good time.

My gut says that you should turn this down but look at it as a wake-up call for you. You're hungry for more in your career and now you've got the scent. MMJ is a huge growth industry and there are going to be a bunch of great businesses that crop up who need great finance people. Keep your ears and eyes open and work on networking within the industry. I bet you'll find something that fits your skill set!
posted by wemayfreeze at 4:36 PM on April 7, 2015 [2 favorites]

It took me a minute to realize the MMJ abbreviation. Before I did, I thought that switching your job for a job for which you're not qualified and not interested that may eventually let you get a job you want, no guarantee, was a bad idea.

Once I worked the MMJ abbreviation out, I doubly triply recommend you not do this. In addition to the other risks people have mentioned (high-risk job, very little possibility of ever working in government again, loss of substantial perks), there are ongoing issues, from what I understand, with banks not being able to accept any money or set up any accounts with marijuana dispensaries, as they legally cannot handle proceeds from federally illegal sales. Which means that dispensaries may face hurdles in withholding taxes and dealing with other paycheck issues for employees, and a few articles I just scanned indicated that banks may not even agree to manage accounts for employees of dispensaries. Unless you're willing to live the rest of your life in cash, you'd quite possibly be involved in some sort of money-laundering scheme to keep your money in the bank.
posted by jaguar at 4:38 PM on April 7, 2015 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Another point -- you mention military experience. It may be changing, but government jobs tend to be much better about recognizing military experience as a valuable skillset than private-sector jobs, as a whole. Locking yourself out of government jobs in the future may knock you back more than you realize.
posted by jaguar at 4:43 PM on April 7, 2015 [9 favorites]

Should I trust the dispensary director when he tells me that there will be opportunities for other positions?

Never believe anyone who tells you this. If you don't like what they're offering now, don't take it.

And that's even besides the fact that you should never, ever leave this magical set up you have right now.
posted by bleep at 4:45 PM on April 7, 2015 [9 favorites]

I think that unless there is some really huge downside to your current job that you have failed to convey here, you should stay with your current job and channel your passions in your relatively abundant free time on your three day weekends that many people would simply kill for. (I mean if you work in a nuclear plant and you have serious health issues and reason to believe the radiation at the nuclear plant is one of the root causes and these health issues are literally killing you -- AND you think leaving your job will help you get well -- sure, walk away from your security and short work week and so on. Otherwise, it's a big fat nope.)

But I also think you shouldn't make this decision based on my opinion that this would be a terrible idea. So here is a better solution for you: See if you can find at least one other person who is doing the sort of work this riskier position would entail. Do an information interview with them and find out if the job they are doing is really what you think it will be. That will either cool your jets real quick or make you more determined than ever to go for it.

At one time, I had fantasies of becoming a physical therapist. Then I interviewed an actual physical therapist and learned that what they did was not at all what I imagined them doing and I dropped that career goal like a hot potato. We really mostly don't have good methods for conveying what most jobs really entail. Before you throw away your envious amounts of freedom and security, at least find out if there is any hope that the job would at all match your visions of glorious, passionate work to look forward to.
posted by Michele in California at 4:46 PM on April 7, 2015 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Have a read about hyperbolic discounting – how we weight choices based on present and future value / happiness / etc. That's the first thing.

The second thing is that in life, it's important to know whether you are 1) running away from something, or 2) running toward something. At times, these can seem very similar, however, fundamentally they are different. There's a world of difference between saying, "I'm bored with my government finance job," and "I want to work in security at a medical marijuana dispensary."

It's really important to understand your motivations here, for you could not choose two things further apart. Finance for the government. Security for a medical marijuana dispensary. Have a think about the symbolism of that – and where you are running from, and where you are running toward. It feels quite convenient that you are choosing a job role that is literally the diametric opposite of what you are currently doing, which leads me to wonder if you're simply tired of your job and cannot admit it – whether to yourself or someone else.

Are you romanticising something hugely different, because it provides a justification that you are deeply in the wrong place at the moment?

Building on that concept, the third thing is that whilst you may not be passionate about finance for the government, and you may be passionate about medical marijuana, your questions about moving on from the new role – security – indicate that in fact, you do not want to work in security for a medical marijuana dispensary. Whilst you may want to work in the field of medical marijuana, perhaps this is not the right role. Hence, why it's important to know whether you are running toward or away – this ultimately sounds like running away.

What does running toward look like? Probably realising that there's a need for finance professionals in the medical marijuana industry. Or realising that there is a whole world that can use your skills – from corporate finance to social finance – that is completely different from what you are doing today.

You do not sound like you want to trade a solid job with the government to be in security at a pot retailer. So, take it that you want to move on from your current role, and do a deep think about what you want to do. If you act rashly, you may well find yourself regretful – if it turns out you ran away from something, and not toward something.
posted by nickrussell at 4:46 PM on April 7, 2015 [8 favorites]

Michele in California reminded me of something else I want to share. I once took a "detour" in my career, to do similar work to what I was already doing, but in a field I had much more passion for (one that many people have a passion for). I was absolutely stoked to get the job, it was in many ways a dream role for me, and one that a ton of folks would kill for. You know what? It was awful. Yeah, I got access to a bunch of stuff I would never have had access to before, I was super proud to tell people what I did, and it looks incredible on my resume. But the stress was insane, the pay was comparatively low, and worst of all, it basically ruined my enjoyment of the thing I had previously loved.

From that, I learned that some things are better left as hobbies or things we enjoy in our free time. At least in my case, turning that passion into a job was one of the worst decisions I've ever made. And the worst part, in hindsight, is that a bunch of people I talked to about making the move said, "don't do it, it's awful, it's not what you think!" And I ignored them all, because I knew what my true passion was, and I believed I should work on something I'm passionate about. If nothing else, I will never again make the mistake of ignoring insiders who are going out of their way to tell me the truth.
posted by primethyme at 5:06 PM on April 7, 2015 [8 favorites]

Dial it down at work. You say you work harder than others. Work less hard. Get a hobby. Your job does NOT have to be your passion. It can just pay the bills. Especially if it's a setup like what you have - four day weeks, freedom, good title and pay... Just dial it down and don't put so much in. Get a passion outside of work. You'll be a lot happier.

I do this. I have the best job someone in my position could possibly have and I do my work but it's not my life. It's what I do with my working time but like you I pretty much do four day work weeks and I'm really successful. I don't think about work much when I'm not there. I don't have relationships with colleagues. I just put in the time and the focus during the work day and at night and on weekends I tend to my passions and hobbies and loved ones. It's hard to do sometimes - I'm an over-achiever and I genuinely can be rabid and obsessed with what I do at work - but I find it better to just do the time and not make it my life or reason for existing.

The American way says our jobs are our selves. Buck that trend. Keep the job. Do your own thing during the 80 hours of time every week that you spend not at work and not sleeping. That's a lot of time for the stuff you're passionate about. Work does not have to be your life.
posted by sockermom at 5:13 PM on April 7, 2015 [8 favorites]

You stated that you have a passion for finance, but not a passion for your specific field of work. Keep in mind that in working with finance, no matter what field you are in, you will always be doing finance. You will do finance work if you are a CFO for [insert most boring field ever] and you will do finance work if you are a CFO for a really cool company like a tech startup.

I can relate here because sometimes I get disillusioned thinking how cool it would be to work for a fashion company because I love fashion. But no, I'm a lawyer. If I work for a fashion company or if I work for a toilet company, I am still just lawyering and drafting contracts.

Finally, don't underestimate the importance of good benefits, free time, and all of the other great aspects of your job.
posted by peach23 at 5:43 PM on April 7, 2015 [3 favorites]

Can you find an avenue to do some pro-bono or volunteer work in the field your passionate about? Maybe after the MA. That might fill the gap and allow you to keep your job that most people dream about. I'm all about gradual career changes and I know from experience that volunteer work can open alot of doors into paid jobs too.
posted by Under the Sea at 6:01 PM on April 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

So you want to leave a slightly boring 4 day a week job with great benefits and pretty much every other thing you could ask for in order to take a position with no job security that you are not qualified for in an industry that will likely preclude you from pursuing a bunch of other jobs in the future?

I'm sorry, but this has bad idea jeans written all over it.

Seriously, do not do this. If you want a different job that is more exciting, start looking around once you complete your Masters and the other training. I'm sure you will have way more options than security work even if you do want to get involved in this specific industry.
posted by litera scripta manet at 6:39 PM on April 7, 2015 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Dear God, no. Nooooo. No.

I recruit finance types. It is an industry where people value careful, considered decision making. A career detour like this will get your resume tossed in the trash should you need another job -- not just for the association with weed, but because of the irrational decision making. And that's not even getting into the reality you are likely to encounter in the actual job. There is no upside here.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:15 PM on April 7, 2015 [12 favorites]

All that glitters is not gold.

I strongly urge you to reconsider the intangible benefits of your government position. 5 years ago, I was healthy as a horse, and did not even know what an insurance "deductible" was. I now have a chronic illness, and would give anything for a 4-day work week.

I feel as though I’m babysitting both the staff and one of my bosses sometimes.

I cannot imagine that this would improve as being a Security Manager in an MMJ clinic. If anything, I think it will be worse, and you will be tethered to your phone/email for security alerts.

I agree with others above, for the amount of risk involved, it is not worth it. If you are really frustrated, I would try exploring an interagency move.
posted by invisible ink at 7:26 PM on April 7, 2015 [3 favorites]

Admittedly government work is not amazingly well paid, but I'm finding it a bit strange that from your relatively senior position, a company with very little operating history can offer you $15k more to do a (presumably) lower level job that you are not really qualified for. Something doesn't quite add up here and it makes me a bit nervous that either they are expecting much more than you think, or their plan is not realistic and the job will not last the distance.

Also, an anecdote: a good friend of mine is a finance guy who started out in corporate work and really didn't like it that much. Now he is a business manager for a large nonprofit. He is working harder than ever but is happier than a pig in mud. Which is to say, there is a square hole for you somewhere - don't give up on that by trying to be a round peg for someone else.
posted by Cheese Monster at 7:43 PM on April 7, 2015 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I'll join the chorus of unanimous replies in saying this is a terrible idea. In not too many years, your life priorities may well change. My priorities at 37 are vastly different than they were at 29 or 32.

Your question reads like the start of a caper movie to me. (TurboNerd was just your average government accountant, until...) ("You're the money/security guy! *You* drive the cash to Vegas!") I feel like the real question might be, "how do I talk myself out of this thing that is, objectively, a terrible idea?" Adrenaline-rich hobby? Plan a two-month bike trip across South America?
posted by salvia at 7:52 PM on April 7, 2015 [8 favorites]

One red flag I see in your post is this: "When I tell people what I do for a living, they fall asleep mid-conversation."

I've been there. It sucks to feel like your job isn't sexy. And I feel like part of what you're after is to tell people what you do and have them say, "Ooh, what's that like?" This is not a good reason to change jobs, I promise.

But it is a good reason to get yourself a really sexy hobby. "I work in finance four days a week and do abstract metalworking/large-scale fiber and textile projects/an all-male Raincoats cover band on my long weekends" is just as much of a conversation starter.
posted by town of cats at 8:45 PM on April 7, 2015 [7 favorites]

This guy sounds SKETCHY.

I would not take a gig with a sketchy person. I would not leave a stable if boring career before finishing my masters degree to work for someone who is likely lying on a bunch of different levels.

You absolutely should not be in business with criminal types and near-criminal types at this time because you have extremely poor judgement and a lot to learn.

Finish your degree.
posted by jbenben at 9:16 PM on April 7, 2015

LOL, upon preview, salvia really nailed this...

"Your question reads like the start of a caper movie to me. (TurboNerd was just your average government accountant, until...) ("You're the money/security guy! *You* drive the cash to Vegas!")"

The guy sees that you are gullible, and for this and your good reputation, he wants you to front his business while the shady shit happens behind your back.
posted by jbenben at 9:22 PM on April 7, 2015 [3 favorites]

The MMJ industry is still very much up in the air. Government ain't going anywhere anytime soon. You can pursue your passion as a hobby and still get guaranteed raises, right?
posted by Mr. Fig at 9:56 PM on April 7, 2015

You are bored at your job. That's a frustrating situation to be in. Finish your masters, and in the next 2 years research other companies in the area you are working in. Network with people who work there. Once you get your masters apply to those companies for a role in finance. You actually enjoy the thing you are doing. Don't give it up just because you think your industry is boring.

I say this as person who's not really afraid of risks and who values challenge in the job immensely. I've taken 20k paycuts for jobs I decided were more interesting and I don't regret it. If this was another job in finance, I think you maybe should have considered it, but don't jump on some other random job just because it's not the one you are in and you are bored. Look around, ask around and see: you are in a good situation and you have the luxury of time to search and be picky.
posted by uncreative at 10:36 PM on April 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

I spent 5 years in the UK Civil Service and ended up in roughly your position - great benefits and exposure to training/educational opportunities, but the work wasn't hugely challenging and I felt stagnant. I left the government and haven't looked back since, but I moved to a position which took advantage of the experience and qualifications I'd earned.

If you're a CFO with qualifications on the way in the next 3-6 months, stick it out and use that time to identify some jobs which excite you. Check out job adverts which relate to your current role, and spend the next 6 months finishing your courses and closing any experience gaps with the jobs you're interested in.

Plus, if you can, overpay into your cushy government pension while it's available.
posted by dvrmmr at 11:20 PM on April 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

I don't recall an AskMe thread ever being this unanimous, so this should tell you something.

Don't go for the new job.
posted by Kwadeng at 11:53 PM on April 7, 2015 [2 favorites]

there are ongoing issues, from what I understand, with banks not being able to accept any money or set up any accounts with marijuana dispensaries, as they legally cannot handle proceeds from federally illegal sales. Which means that dispensaries may face hurdles in withholding taxes and dealing with other paycheck issues for employees

The flipside of this is that there's going to be a real need for folks who are adept at navigating the tangled web of MMJ finance. If you're interested in MMJ, start doing research on the current state of laws governing MMJ and current best practices. You may find that there's great work to be had for someone adept at navigating that world, perhaps as a consultant. Or you may find a need for your particular skillset in organizations that are working to change the laws for the better.

There's lots of ways to get involved with MMJ, is what I'm saying! Go find the right one for you.
posted by wemayfreeze at 12:24 AM on April 8, 2015 [4 favorites]

Unless you're willing to live the rest of your life in cash, you'd quite possibly be involved in some sort of money-laundering scheme to keep your money in the bank.

Hey so i debated replying to this but... i actually HAVE worked for a MMJ place/dispensary! A very "professionally" run one that was serious about offering discounts to people on fixed income/disability/veterans and Making A Difference In The Community and all that. Cool people worked there! A good friend of mine did too! My boss was crazy/awesome/a cartoon character! A constant sidekick in the office was a fucking giant talking parrot!

I work in IT, and was contracting doing IT stuff for them. It was, besides some of the lamest home office/small business clients i've dealt with, the dumbest shit i've had to deal with. Constant sketchiness, cash only pay(because of the aforementioned bank issues brought up in this thread)... and just lots of headaches.

It was never a steady gig, the pay was erratic(sometimes huge bonuses, sometimes late, sometimes short, bla bla bla).

And as i said, the place was well known locally for being one of the most up and up/uptight/"adult"(to the point of being like "oh isn't that where grandmas go?" and not "cool") enterprises doing this sort of thing. I'd bring it up to people i met who worked other places and they'd go "oh, how was working there? I heard it was pretty uptight". Everyone involved in actually running it was middle aged and had good amounts of business experience... and it was still a fucking mess, mostly because all the money had to be kept in a giant safe and this lead to like... bail bondsman levels of sketch.

I liked the idea of the job. I felt cool saying i worked there, and that i worked for a local business that was Making A Difference selling super cheap high quality stuff to grandmas on SSI. But just... so much stupid.

Oh, and that's something i've had to drop off my resume. Not for concerns of "U WORKED AT TEH WEED STOR?" but because my boss became so weird and unreliable, and i thought i left on good terms but there was never any real explanation for why they quit contracting with me and they just... stopped communicating with me.

I have several friends who have worked at dispensaries, and i think only one acquaintance even who still does. They all sort of just drifted out of it because of unreliability, sketchiness, and people being let go passive aggressively on random whims.

It's an industry of unreliable weird people right now. It's turbulent. It'll settle down in to just being a normal job, and at worst basically like high end retail eventually... but right now it isn't. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone, much less someone who has a secure job right now.

Just figured that perspective might be of some use, seeing as how no one in here has actually done anything like this that i've seen.

Oh and on preview, stuff like salvia joked about DID happen. "Hey, the guy who usually delivers stuff to disabled people who can't come in is out. Can you guys take this gigantic amount of pot and go deliver it to XYZ locations?". At the time i thought it was funny, but live in a state where weed is now fully legal. If you're doing it in a state where it isn't, or is medical only or something, that kind of shit can wear thin and can/should be a deal breaker. And i saw it happen quite a bit. Once again, at the most "professional" place i've seen/heard of/people talk about. The businesses are just small enough now that even if you DID have a c-level position, you'd probably end up being in that small-business-c-level-position situation where you still might be the guy driving the van full of widgets across town at 3am once in a while.
posted by emptythought at 12:25 AM on April 8, 2015 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you all very much for the great responses and intelligent opinions. I was able to gain insight from every single one of these posts. I appreciate the abundance of objective opinions that are telling me what I instinctively already know. I'll stay at my current job for the time being. Down the road, I could venture into the MMJ industry once it becomes more established and grows into a universally legitimate business. On a side note, this was my first MetaFilter post. I am amazed at all of the awesome responses.
posted by TurboNerd at 5:35 AM on April 8, 2015 [8 favorites]

Something that was kind of touched upon above but I think deserves to be called out: you can use your interest, knowledge, and extra time to help legitimize MMJ so that in the future people don't have to worry about going into the industry.
posted by rhizome at 10:30 AM on April 8, 2015 [3 favorites]

After letting this one marinate in my brain for a minute, i have a suggestion of a related job that would be a lot more stable and might interest you.

Working for a consulting company that helps people develop these businesses, or comes in to help with struggling ones. It's usually a collective of lawyers, finance people, business dev/people with lots of sucessful startup or angel investing type experience, and then just nuts and bolts people(or contacts with contractors) to do the actual meatspace setting up of the actual B&M stores/offices.

Someone with your level of experience would probably be treated like Jesus by a larger one of these shops. These places also bill out at enormous jaw dropping rates, to people who are already throwing down millions to buy real estate, licensing, etc. They get paid, every time, unlike direct employees of the shops.

And they're real, regular companies that handle their finances like any other business dev consulting firm.

There's also the added benefit of this looking totally normal on a resume. You went and worked for a consulting firm, big woop. People do that all the time because consulting pays great. Nothing about that is radioactive, and it's easy to be vague later on about what exactly the firm was targeted at. Just focus on your role there, bam, done.

These places are out there. Just like consulting shops that help set up restaurants or night clubs or casinos or whatever else.

It's worth noting that these are more of a thing in retail sales states, like washington and colorado. I don't know where you are, and this might be something you'd have to move to get in to a good market for.
posted by emptythought at 3:23 PM on April 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

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